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Leslie's £550,000 deal with the Daily Express is back on

LONDON – The £550,000 deal between John Leslie and Express Newspapers is back on and will now run in the paper tomorrow and Saturday, after the former 'This Morning' presenter was cleared of sex charges.

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The deal was axed in June when charges were brought against Leslie. However, with all charges now gone Leslie is free to tell his story and begin to rebuild his career.

Few believe that he will regain his £250,000 a year TV presenting job, but the loss of this might be made sweeter as he prepares not only to sell his story to the mid-market tabloid, but possibly to book publishers and TV stations.

His solicitor, Paul Fox, said: "He's been out of his job for eight months and it's never going to be easy."

It has been reported that a book deal could be worth as much as £1m, as publishers launch a bidding war to snap up Leslie's side of the story. The Scot has also been recording a video diary during his nine-month ordeal, which could make for compulsive viewing if turned into a TV documentary.

Despite the money Leslie stands to make PR guru Max Clifford said that Leslie had made a mistake signing the exclusive deal with the Daily Express.

"He's got to win the hearts and minds of the British public and that's going to be an uphill struggle. An exclusive deal with Express Newspapers...is a fundamental mistake. He needs to get the very media who helped to damage and destroy him, to help rebuild his career - and that means all of them."

Leslie appeared today outside Bow Street magistrates court and told reporters that he was an innocent man. He said he had maintained his innocence throughout the long-running case, and that today he had been justified.

"In the last 10 months my family and I have been taken to hell and back, although we always believed that justice would prevail and the truth be out. I have said that I would clear my name in the due legal process in a court of law and today I have," he said.

This morning, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped its case against Leslie and said it would be offering no evidence against the defendant.

Richard Horwell, counsel for the prosecution, said: "The prosecution has come into possession of further material that has led to the charges against the defendant being reviewed. As a result of that review, a decision has been taken to offer no evidence against Mr. Leslie."

Horwell added that "In offering no evidence against him the prosecution gladly acknowledge that he will leave this Court without a stain on his character from this investigation."

The case began in October 2002 when, following the publication of Ulrika Jonsson's autobiography 'Honest', Leslie was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women.

However, Horwell said that "the person who made that original allegation chose not to co-operate with the police. Accordingly, that allegation remains no more than that: an allegation that the complainant chose not to substantiate".

After the initial action was dropped it was reported in June that Leslie was to be charged with two accounts of indecent assault relating to an incident in May 1997, and after investigating these two charges further the CPS has now dropped its case altogether.

Outside the court today, Leslie said: "I would not be here today if it was not for my mum and dad, my family, my girlfriend and my friends, who to a man stood by me, and the general public for their letters, for their cards and their kind words.

"Finally for my team of John, James, Paul and Jason for believing in me 110. You've no idea what this has done, what today means. Thank you. I have nothing more to say," he said.

Asked about a possible return to the media and his old job at ITV he said: "Who knows, you tell me."

When Leslie was charged with the two counts of sexual misconduct in June, Granada Television defended its decision to sack Leslie and said it would not be rehiring him.

Granada said that its sacking of Leslie was justified because the presenter had failed to clarify his position when the allegations of rape and sexual assault were first made.

There has also been talk that he is considering suing Five, which was the first media channel to link Leslie's name to allegations made in Jonsson's book on Matthew Wright's morning show 'The Wright Stuff'.

In May, Leslie had been set to sell his story to the Daily Express for a sum reported to be £550,000. He lost the deal when he was charged.

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